Describing Images

Introduction

Describing pictures is a useful way of learning vocabulary and practising language for giving detail.
1. Read the description of a photo, then answer the questions below.
We can see a group of people having a picnic in the park. They're young families, with babies and small children. There are some baby carriages around the blankets they have put down for their picnic. Two mothers and a father seem busy taking care of their small kids. The others are stood or sat around, though one little girl in the middle with a colourful striped dress is on her own. She appears to be holding something up to her mouth, but it's difficult to see what it is. Although the people seem to be relaxed, they're not mixing together as a group. And as there aren't many things on the blankets you would associate with a picnic, they're probably coming to the end of their stay and getting their things together before they go. There are decorations hanging from a tree at the front of the picture, so perhaps it's been one of the children's birthday party.

Click “Start” to reload.

2. Look for the photo described in the text in pictures 1-4 below, then click 'Answer'.
describingimages1234
  • Answer

'Seem', 'Appear' and 'Look Like':

3. Look at these sentences from the first part of the text:
A) There are some baby carriages around the blankets they have put down for their picnic.
B) Two mothers and a father seem busy taking care of their small kids.
C) She appears to be holding something up to her mouth, but it's difficult to see what it is.

In sentence A), 'There are' begins a description of what we can see in the picture. It's okay to start with a visual description, but you should then focus on the situation, explaining what you think is happening and why.
We use the bold (black) expressions in sentences B) and c) to say we think something is true, from the evidence we have. This is called 'deducing' or 'making a deduction'.

In sentence B), we have 'seem' + adjective. We can also use 'seem' + to be + adjective / noun, with the same meaning.
They seem busy
They seem busy taking
They seem to be busy
They seem to be taking
They seem to be busy taking
But not: They seem taking

Sentence C) is a little different: 'appears' in this sense always has 'to be', both with an adjective or a noun (like 'holding' in the example).
Not:They appear busy
They appear to be busy
They appear to be taking
They appear to be busy taking
We can also use 'look(s)' and 'look(s) / seem(s) like' with the same meaning as the examples above, but again, there are a few differences in the form: 'look(s)' + adjective never has 'to be'.
They look busy
But not: They look to be busy
And not: They look to be taking
'look(s) / seem(s) like' always has a noun or noun phrase.
Not:They look / seem like busy
but: They look / seem like they're busy.
They look / seem like they're talking.

Practice

Click “Start” to reload.

6. Post your own picture on the board below and write a short description using the expressions we have seen in this class.